Meals on Pram Wheels
The best time of the year for us boy’s was summer, and the long school holidays, us four boys together. The sun did really shine all the time. It was better for dad too, and for his stomach, for then he did not take sandwiches to work. He had his own ‘Meals-on-Wheels’ service. Mum would make him a pudding in a basin, every day,sometimes with meat, when she could afford it. When it was cooked, both the pudding and I would be put in the pram, and off we would go, us four boys and dad’s pud, on the one-mile walk from Toronto Road to Tilbury Riverside Station.
If you go to Tilbury Riverside Station today you may only get as far as the iron gated entrance, and peer into its gloomy interior with its dust-covered floor, and boarded up windows. You will not see what I see, the gates are open, and the sunlight streams across the washed and polished floor.The Boat Train is in, and all is hustle and bustle, people with sun tanned faces, and light coloured clothing pour from the Customs Hall followed by porters wheeling barrows piled high with trunk, and cases.
There our dad could be found resplendent in his black uniform, complete with waistcoat and shiny silver buttons. To everyone else he was just a porter, but to me he was the most important person on the station, just before a train departed he would come out of the porter’s room, and ring a brass hand bell.
For beyond the ticket barrier stood a great steaming monster, all fired up and waiting for the word from our dad to go on its non-stop run to Fenchurch Street. Why without him no train would ever go anywhere!
Having done our ‘Dinner Duty’ we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We would make for the ‘World’s End’, a local riverside pub. Not that we would be allowed into the pub of course, but there was Tilbury Fort with its moat and the busy river, always bustling with activity, plenty to see as we ate our sandwiches, and drank cold tea, or warm pop.
The river of course was every bit as dangerous then as it is today, and swimming in it was not recommended. To this day no one knows how it happened, one minute I was on the slipway playing with a bit of seaweed, the next I was swept off my feet and in deep trouble. I was rescued by my quick thinking brother Len, who waded in, and snatched me from the jaws of death. Wet through I was rushed home, and got a right telling off.
From that day to this my golden rule has been ‘don’t go near the water’